- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

A defiant South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said Wednesday that he will not resign despite a plea to do so earlier in the day by fellow Republican Andre Bauer, the state’s lieutenant governor.

But the Bauer news conference was an opening public salvo in an attempt by state Republicans that may include impeachment as a last resort, The Washington Times has learned.

“I’m not going to be railroaded out of [office],” Mr. Sanford said at a televised news conference at 3:30 p.m. in the West Wing of the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C.

Mr. Sanford, who in June admitted to a yearlong extramarital affair with an Argentine woman, said that regardless of the press’ preoccupation with his infidelity and the use of taxpayer money for some meetings with his mistress, the people of South Carolina have “moved on” and were no longer focused on the personal affairs of the governor.

He implied that the voters had forgiven him enough to let him complete his second elected term, which runs till January 2011.

“We have an incredible record,” he said of his nearly seven years as governor.

But Mr. Bauer, 40, at his noon news conference, said the resignation of Mr. Sanford, 49, would be for the good of the state.

Republicans said Mr. Bauer’s motive was not to force Mr. Sanford out immediately, but to try to get Mr. Sanford to focus less on himself and more on the state party’s concerns for its future.

A pool of Republican lawmakers, many of whom have followed the Sanford line on issues before the legislature, have concluded that he will do more damage to the party the longer he stays in office. At least one of them, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, visited him with that message Tuesday.

The message from Republicans is that unless he leaves voluntarily, they will try to impeach him, a state Republican official told The Times.

State Republican Party Chairman Karen Floyd would not say where she stands personally on the resignation question.

“The state party’s executive committee is on record as censuring him for his unacceptable behavior and now new allegations have come to light,” Mrs. Floyd told The Times, referring to purported misuse of taxpayer money to finance the governor’s meetings with his paramour.

Cindy Costa, a South Carolina Republican National Committee member, said in an interview, “If [Mr. Sanford] has abused taxpayers funds, maybe he does need to step down.”

Mr. Bauer, the lieutenant governor, said he had tried to give Mr. Sanford “the benefit of the doubt” after he admitted to the affair but that the state “has been paralyzed by questions about the legality of Mr. Sanford’s travel,” according to news service accounts.

Mr. Bauer said he worried that calls for Mr. Sanford’s “impeachment will dominate next year’s legislative session instead of issues like the economy and job creation.”

Both men have won election twice, each on separate ballots, to their respective offices. They are considered as not-so-friendly rivals.

Under the state constitution, Mr. Bauer automatically would succeed Mr. Sanford until the 2010 gubernatorial elections. He said Wednesday he would not seek election in his own right next year if Mr. Sanford, considered a likely 2012 Republican presidential nomination candidate until his temporary disappearance in June, and the revelation of his affair, departs the scene now.

Republican Attorney General Henry McMaster, the former state Republican Party chairman and a fixture in South Carolina Republican politics, formally declared Tuesday that he would seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

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